Friday, January 30, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Stevenson Univeristy

Stevenson Univeristy, Mission: I'm Home, holds a place near and dear the SBP's heart. These long time volunteers have been bringing students to the Big Easy for many years. We asked them a bit more about why they keep choosing to volunteer with the St. Bernard Project.

"The Experiences in the past are consistently rewarding. The site supervisors always support the volunteers thought the taste and kept the work fun. The SBP mission is honest, clean, and absolutely making a difference. We are lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside SBP to rebuild New Orleans."

Stevenson Univeristy worked on two different houses, both in the mold remediation phase, which includes a three-step process. This is a critical stage of construction and ensures that the homes will not have to be torn back to the studs again. We asked them what they enjoyed most about coming to New Orleans and working with SBP. This is what they said.

"Meeting the Homeowner."

“Hearing the stories of where the AmeriCorps members are from and what brought them to SBP.”

“Understanding, and seeing the history of Katrina and New Orleans.”

“Getting to know people from my school that I didn’t know before this trip.”

“I didn’t think I could be this happy bring this gross.”

“Learning new skills and understanding the importance of what we are doing.”

“Using my two hands to make a difference."

We asked them what they would tell others who are looking to volunteer to rebuild New Orleans and the lives of the people who live here. They advised to:

"Come open minded and remember that every step matters.”

“You’re not just building a home, you're rebuilding a life.”

“Bring music! Motto of Mission I’m home - Eat. Work. Dance.”

“Get ready to have your life changed.”

When asked how this was different than other volunteer experiences they had, they collectively agreed that it was a personal experience, and they left feeling fulfilled, completely understanding the difference you are truly making. Thanks again Stevenson - we'll see you next year!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Farmers Insurance


St. Bernard Project- New Jersey recently had the pleasure of working with Farmers Insurance. Farmers has been a vital partner to the St. Bernard Project in our rebuilding efforts. Farmers has been sending up to five of their employees every week to help with our rebuilding efforts. For 2015 Farmers has doubled down on the recovery effort by extending employees volunteer stints by an extra week! This dedication to our recovery efforts has been absolutely incredible, without committed and passionate partners like Farmers this important work might not get done.

Last week, was the start of what we know will be another fruitful year of partnering with Farmers. We had three fantastic volunteers who hailed from all over the Mid-Atlantic Area spend a week with with us rolling up their sleeves and getting their boots dirty. They completed various construction tasks, including: hanging drywall; mudding; and spackling. These hands-on activities allowed the volunteers to gain a true understanding of how big an impact volunteer labor can make in the rebuilding process.

One of the members mentioned how great it was to really see the tangible impact of their efforts. Another commented how exciting it was to gain new skills, while at the same time contributing to a valuable service towards the community. All of these individuals put a strong emphasis on taking the opportunity to get involved with SBP’s important work. Volunteering with SBP in New Jersey was a unique experience for the group not only because this line of work was new to them but also because it was the 1st time many of them felt they were really making a difference through volunteering. Serving with SBP in New Jersey, provided Farmers Insurance members the chance to see 1st hand the challenges that still lie ahead, but most importantly the experience demonstrated the tremendous value volunteers have on the community.

Thanks for all your hard work Farmers Insurance!

To volunteer with the St. Bernard Project visit:

Written by: Michael Spinello

Friday, January 16, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Aon

St. Bernard Project - New York was happy to welcome back one of our repeat volunteer teams, Aon, for another day of service in the Rockaways. The local branch of Aon, a professional services company, has partnered with SBP - NY since 2013; we asked Dessi, a representative of the group, to share the team’s thoughts on their experience with SBP thus far.

What drew your team to serve with the SBP - NY organization?

Our company works on disaster mitigation for corporations, but we wanted to give back to our local community and assist the families in need after Sandy, alongside the businesses. As SBP allows us to have a hand in the actual construction, we thought it was a perfect way for us to give back.

Which construction tasks did you do?

We worked on installing insulation and drywall.

Aon volunteers in beautiful Queens, NY
What was your group’s favorite part of the volunteer experience?

Aon adopted the Stack Family House, and being able to take it from start to finish as a team was a truly fulfilling experience!

How was this volunteer experience unique from other volunteer experiences?

The unique experience was that we were truly responsible for completing the task at hand. It’s not just about being present.

Any advice for future volunteers?

Be ready to work! You will be doing the actual construction and it requires team work!

Thanks again for all your hard work, Aon, and a special thank you to Dessi for agreeing to be interviewed;
we look forward to working with you all over the coming months!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Indiana University Y'ALL

Volunteers at a Welcome Home Party 
St. Bernard Project NOLA was lucky to have students from Indiana University’s Y’ALL (Youth Advocating Leadership & Learning) club from Bloomington, Indiana joined us for a great week of service and building. They arrived on a bus and filed out full of energy and excitement. These volunteers came to work and to build! The group of 40 said they chose to work with us because of “amazing reviews, as well as the ability to accommodate our large group.” Saying, “It was a perfect fit for us.” Tasks included drywalling, painting, and mold prevention. They said the best part was interacting with the homeowner and wanted to give a special shoutout to Mr. Frank. Aparna Srinath told me, “It’s nice to give back to the community and I’m  happy I to do  it with SBP.” 

Duyen Nguyen pulled from some past experiences, saying “I’ve been on many volunteer trips and St. Bernard Project is now one of my favorites! SBP  embodies the spirit of service as well as giving us an insight about the community of New Orleans.” Jack Alexander rebutted “So, I’ve been on more service trips than Duyen, and I’ve seen service projects done well and done poorly. SBP is engaging in a GREAT mission in New Orleans and I’m honored to have been apart of it.” When asked what made this experience unique, they replied saying “There is work for everyone at all skill levels. We feel like we’re  giving back to NOLA.”
Some of the students with their Site Supervisor

Advice for future volunteers? Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Danny Riggs viewed the week as “terrific experience, and very eye-opening. I’ve gained perspective and I can’t wait to come back!” Alex McManus made a donation, by buying a shirt and reflected on his week “I’m in it for the SBP t-shirts and I love being a blessing to others.” As Nick Phoebus put it “You get what you give.” Finally, the oh so humble Timmy O’Conner said, “I heard this would get me the ladies.” Thanks for all your hard work Y’ALL -- hope to see you again in NOLA sometime soon!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: First Presbyterian Church - Charlotte

St. Bernard Project - New York was excited to work with the First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte (FPCC) a few weeks ago. The North Carolina-based group – like many of our volunteer teams last month – came to us through the national VOAD Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), a Friends of Rockaway partner. Per the PDA website, “Presbyterian Disaster Assistance enables congregations and mission partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) to witness to the healing love of Christ through caring for communities adversely affected by crisis and catastrophic event.” SBP is grateful to PDA for its past service in our disaster-affected communities, and looks forward to continued collaboration with the group.


According to one FPCC volunteer, her team spent its day in the Rockaways as “general laborers -- we hauled bags of sand!” They were also able to tile a floor and complete some demolition work, much to the enjoyment of the group. Volunteers appreciated their experience with SBP because they “got to know the homeowners,” “get to finish the job,” and “like the feeling of helping repair places and things that people may have forgotten about.” Their favorite part of serving with FoR, however, was “the relationships you make with homeowners, staff, and other volunteers.”

Members of FPCC offered several pieces of advice to future volunteers. They stressed “staying flexible,” “showing up with an open heart,” and “no matter your skill level, participate!” as essential mindsets for volunteering. Most of all, they wanted to remind people that “disaster recovery still needs help!”  

Thanks for all your hard work, First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte -- we hope to see you out here in the Rockaways again soon!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Rutgers University’s Student Volunteer Council

A couple weekends ago, SBP in New Jersey had the pleasure of welcoming Rutgers University’s (New Brunswick campus) Student Volunteer Council. Many of the students in the group grew up in New Jersey and many members of the Rutgers community was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which helped influence their decision in volunteering with us. 

One of the volunteers explains how “Sandy Relief is one of [their] most popular and successful services because of the lasting memories of what Sandy did. Sea Bright was a perfect choice for [them] because it allowed [their] group to easily and effectively volunteer to make an impact on restoration.” Sixteen members came in early Saturday morning to complete task, such as putting up drywall and applying Spackle in one of the homes. 

Despite the weather being cold and windier than they expected it to be they worked hard throughout the day to get the job done with the help of their site supervisor, Koffi Ayi. “I think what made our volunteer experience so great was really our site leader. He was very determined to give our volunteers a meaningful experience, and was really a pleasure to be around,” says one of the student volunteers. 

Most of the members agreed that what made this experience unique was that their site leader truly allowed for them to get the most out of their experience. A piece of advice Rutgers University Student Volunteer Council has for future volunteers is to “plan out everything ahead and maybe research about what you will be doing.” 

Thanks for all your hard work Rutgers University Student Volunteer Council -- we hope to see you out here again soon!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Mormon Helping Hands

This past month, SBP/Friends of Rockaway was pleased to work with members of the Mormon Helping Hands (MHH) group of Utah and California. Like many of our volunteer groups, MHH learned of SBP/FoR through word of mouth. Friends of theirs who had worked with FoR told them about the great service opportunities in Rockaway, so the members of MHH were excited to join our mission. As missionaries stationed in the New York area for the next few months, the volunteers are looking forward to helping rebuild their newly adopted community as they spread their spiritual message.

The Mormon Helping Hands team has tackled a number of construction jobs during its time in the Rockaways. According to group member Elder Tannen Bills, they have “tiled, painted, put in floors and siding, mudded, broken cement, hung drywall, and sanded!” Volunteers enjoyed working with SBP/FoR for its unique approach to the service experience. They lauded our organization for its “professional feel,” the “personal aspect that allows you to talk about what you’re actually doing,” and the fact that there is “always something to do!”

As for their favorite parts of the service opportunity, MHH volunteers appreciated that they got to “get down and dirty,” “work with [their] hands,” “help in general,” and “meet new people.” One group member added “sledgehammers are fun” and “causing [helpful] destruction” to the list of enjoyable volunteer activities. The team advises future volunteers to “bring water...and a spray bottle” and to “learn as much as you can -- mudding isn’t as hard as you think!”

Thanks so much for your hard work, Mormon Helping Hands -- we look forward to working with you all over the coming months!